May 12, 2012

GuestSpeak: When pictures speak

Carter's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph
Before I come to the point it’s important for one to understand where I am coming from. Here is an account of a relevant story that I feel would help me express my feelings and the message I am trying to convey in a better way.

"I am depressed ... without phone ... money for rent ... money for child support ... money for debts ... money!!! ... I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain ... of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners ... I have gone to join Ken (recently deceased colleague Ken Oosterbroek) if I am that lucky" excerpts from suicide note of Kevin Carter who took his own life by taping one end of a hose to his pickup truck’s exhaust pipe and running the other end to the passenger-side window. He died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carter's prize winning photograph was sold to the New York Times; the photograph first appeared on March 26, 1993. Hundreds of people contacted the newspaper to ask the fate of the girl. The paper reported that it was unknown whether she had managed to reach the feeding center. In 1994, the photograph won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.

My inspiration to write this post came from above mentioned story, my own real experience follows -
Few years back I watched a programme on migrating animals, where an injured baby baboon unable to keep up with pace of other baboons is left behind by the mother. Towards the end of the programme they showed baby baboon being watched by some vultures while mother though concerned about the baby but left with no choice decides to move on with the rest. Being an animal lover I could not bear the thought of baby being attacked by the vultures so I immediately switched over the channel .I kept on brooding over and wondered why couldn't the camera man rescue the baby, treat him, feed him and drop him where he belonged, I cried and cried for months together finally went into acute depression. There on I am not allowed to watch discovery channel. I totally understand the law of nature and phrases like 'Survival of the fittest'. But we as human beings and an intelligent species can avert few of the tragedies that we tend to ignore.

Several times we watch a man or a woman beaten up in an inhuman way or someone run down by a vehicle bleeding to death I can cite any number of such examples that I must have watched on news channels. In each case I have simply switched over the channels for the reason that neither I can bear the inhuman act nor insensitivity of the camera person, or an anchor who takes pride in narrating the whole incident that took place in front of his or her eyes but made no effort to save a life. Their selfish concern seems to be making breaking news that goes like “murder caught on camera" and I wonder is the camera person/photographer as a human being not  morally responsible to avert such tragedies or  should they simply concentrate on what they are getting paid for ??

There is a need for all such photographers, camera men, journalists to take a lesson from Carters case that was much criticized for having not saved the child, who while on a trip to Sudan, was preparing to photograph a starving toddler trying to reach a feeding center when a vulture landed nearby. Carter reported to have taken the picture, because it was his "job title" and leaving.  He came under criticism for failing to help the girl.

The St. Petersburg Times in Florida said this of Carter: "The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering, might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene."
Alka Narula (c)

Written for 'Hold the Thought, Get the Point' by our guest blogger Alka Narula.
Find more information about her at Indiblogger

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